An animal rights group is accusing Elon Musk’s Nueralink of subjecting monkeys to illegal mistreatment and “extreme suffering.” A complaint to be filed with the federal government by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine alleges that in one case, a test monkey for Musk’s brain chip technology was found to be missing fingers and toes “possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma.”
Business Insider reports that Neuralink, the biotech company owned by Elon Musk currently developing brain-computer interfaces, has been accused by an animal-rights group of subjecting test monkeys to illegal mistreatment and causing “extreme suffering.”
Business Insider gained access to a draft regulatory complaint expected to be filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week. The complaint by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) alleges that the group obtained access to records showing that monkeys used in Neuralink trials experienced “extreme suffering as a result of inadequate animal care and the highly invasive experimental head implants during the experiments.”
The PCRM claims to have gained access to over 700 pages of documents such as veterinary records, necropsy reports, and more via a public-records request at the university. The records are linked to the 23 monkeys owned by Neuralink which were experimented upon at the UC Davis facility from 2017 t0 2020.
The PCRM alleges that UC Davis and Neuralink committed as many as nine violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including breaches of agreements that researchers minimize the pain and distress of animals, have a veterinarian advise on the use of anesthesia, and ensuring that daily observations of animals take place.
The complaint alleges that in one example, a test monkey was found missing many fingers and toes “possibly from self-mutilation or some other unspecified trauma.” The monkey was killed during a “terminal procedure” at a later date.
Another monkey had holes drilled into its skull and electrodes implanted into its brain. The monkey allegedly developed a painful skin infection and was euthanized.
Another macaque monkey had electrodes implanted into its brain, immediately began vomiting, retching, and gasping. Days later, researchers noted that the animal “appeared to collapse from exhaustion/fatigue” and was then killed. A later autopsy showed that the monkey suffered from a brain hemorrhage.
According to Jeremy Beckham, a research advocacy coordinator with the PCRM, of the 23 monkeys only seven survived and were transferred to a Neuralink facility in 2020 after Neuralink ended its relationship with UC Davis.
Elon Musk has consistently hyped the Neuralink technology, claiming it would solve problems like depression and addiction. Musk stated in December that the company hoped to start human testing in 2022. Last February, Musk hoped to start human trials in 2021, and in 2019 he hoped to start human testing at the end of 2020.
Beckham stated that experiments conducted by Neuralink “just a couple years ago make me extremely skeptical that they’re anywhere near being able to safely carry out anything in human volunteers.”